Students at the Mastro Montessori Academy during a class with elementary directress Sasha Cherniavsky last week. Below, an architect’s drawing of the new school, to be built on White Road in Shrewsbury. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Tucked in between a dry cleaning operation and a string of industrial buildings off Branch Avenue, the Mastro Montessori Academy plans to start construction soon on a two-story, 8,100-square-foot schoolhouse on White Road in neighboring Shrewsbury.
All approvals are in hand following a series of zoning board hearings that concluded in 2009 with the school winning variances to build at 35 White, just east of the Valley National Bank branch.
The one-acre property, which had two homes on it at the time, is in a commercial zone, and Shrewsbury law requires that new schools have five acres of property.
While the school was “very happy and contented in our little brick schoolhouse,” things are tight with the current enrollment of 60 children from age 18 months to 12 year old, said administratrative assistant Kristen De Rose.
Enrollment has been as high as 78, and the goal is to get it back to and above that level, officials said.
Launched by the late Mary Guarriello in 1968 (and named for her brother, Vincent Mastro), the school set up in the modest house at 36 Birch Avenue and quickly put on a two-story addition, the upper of which has a low ceiling that toddlers don’t mind but adults can find claustrophobia-inducing.
“The building is just not big enough for us to do what we want to do,” said business administrator Michael Bradbury who acquired the school with his wife, longtime Montessori teacher Elizabeth, and took the school to non-profit status in 1998. His office that doubles as the staff lunchroom, nurse’s office, speech classroom and storeroom.
The Bradburys, who live in Spring Lake, obtained approvals from Little Silver to knock down the house and rebuild, but the school’s board of directors balked at the aesthetics of the area and decided to look elsewhere. They bought the Shrewsbury lot for $925,000.
The new building, designed by Red Bank architect Ned Gaunt and expected to cost another $1.25 million, will allow the school to create a separate music instruction area and space large enough for events that include students, staff and parents. A rain garden is to be built in the center of a circular parking lot.
“We hope the new building’s going to reflect the quality of our approach to education,” Bradbury said.
Mastro Montessori plans a groundbreaking at 35 White Road in Shrewsbury on Saturday at 2 p.m., with a reception following at Bingham Hall in Rumson.